Karen Spencer: A Time to Speak Up for Immigrants & Refugees

When we think of biblical stories or passages about time, few of us turn to Esther. We’ll turn to Genesis, where God makes time by separating the dark from the light and the sun from the moon. We’ll look at Ecclesiastes, where the Preacher meditates on the times and seasons for everything. We’ll consider the birth of Christ, an event that, according to Paul, occurred “in the fullness of time.”

But Esther offers deep insights on timing as well. When it becomes clear that Esther will need to take a stand for her people at the risk of her life, her uncle Mordecai wonders: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

It’s a question which resonates with many of us. “What if I am called to this ministry, this role, this position, this job, this relationship…for such a time as this?”

Important as such personal insights are, however, we must consider the context of this story if we want to thoroughly understand how it applies to us today.

During the time before the story unfolds, the Jews had been in exile, forcibly displaced migrants across borders – much like modern-day stateless refugees. In the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, many returned to Jerusalem to rebuild and resume their national identity.

But not all did. For many reasons, some remained displaced. Migration is arduous. Thousands of years later, we still see refugees trudging by foot for weeks in search of safety. And some are simply unable to make the journey, preferring the known risks of staying over the unknown risks of running.

The situation in Esther’s time was similar, if not worse. A sizeable population of immigrant Jews remained in the land of Persia, where Ahasuerus (Xerxes in some translations) was king. They were sojourners, temporary residents, foreigners or aliens without the rights of citizens.

We know the story: After the king dismisses his queen, Vashti, he begins the hunt for a new bride. Esther – an orphan in the care of her cousin Mordecai – emerges as the ideal candidate. But Esther has a secret: She is not Persian. Mordecai advises her to keep her immigrant status hidden, and Esther becomes the king’s new bride.

The plot thickens when Haman, who despises Mordecai, is promoted as the second-highest authority in the land. When Haman discovers that Mordecai is an immigrant, he devises a plan to not only execute Mordecai, but to kill all his people as well.

Imagine the fear among the immigrant community as they heard rumors about what would happen. Imagine the racial profiling that would have to take place to determine if a person was Jewish.

Mordecai, however, sees a way out. He asks Esther to reveal her identity as an immigrant and to plead with the king for her people.

Her first response is fear, but Mordecai, at the tipping point of the story, asks her to consider – is it possible that she came to the throne “for such a time as this”?

Esther listens. She advocates for her people – even at the risk of her life.

The story concludes with a happy ending, commemorated every year in the Jewish feast of Purim. The king hears her counsel, decides not to exterminate the Jews and sentences Haman to death.

Esther, a member of an immigrant community, has spoken up and defended herself and her people. And because of her fortitude, the community grows. The story concludes with many people converting to Judaism, inspired by the fasting, prayer and courage of the people.

Fast-forward to modern times. As a Christian, I don’t have any sort of physical crown or temporal royal power – but I believe I have a different type of royal position. I read the New Testament, and it tells me that I have unbelievable worth and identity as a child of God. But with that identity comes responsibility: I must speak up and put love in action.

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Source: Christian Post